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Shrubs and Trees That Withstand Shade

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Growing trees and shrubs in shade can be a challenge if you choose plants that prefer sunny conditions. If you choose plants that are adapted to shady conditions, shade gardening is quite enjoyable and barely any work at all.

There are many shrubs and trees that prefer shade. They are understory plants that like the company of tall trees or overarching shrubs. Many have colorful blooms or foliage.

Choosing shrubs and trees for shade

When choosing shrubs and trees for shade be sure to consider the following: (1) will the plant grow in my regions or growing zone; (2) what height and width will best fit the location; (3) is the plant evergreen or deciduous; (4) does the plant flower, have interesting foliage, or or colorful branches (for winter interest).

Planting in shade

Keep in mind that the soil under large trees can be poor or dry; trees draw up a lot of moisture and nutrients. Preparing the planting area for shade-loving shrubs and trees may require amending the soil with organic matter. Adding aged compost on a regular basis can transform poor soil. If you find tree roots in the spot where you want to plant, you can remove any roots less than 1-inch (2.5cm) in diameter without hurting the tree.

Dig a large hole for shrubs and trees, larger than you would in a sunny spot, then add plenty of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; this will help new planting become esstablished.

Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis
Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis

Trees that withstand shade

Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Acer circinatum25’5-9Vine Maple
Acer pensylvanicum36’3-7Striped Maple
Acer spicatum25’3-7Mountain Maple
Amelanchier spp.36’4-9Serviceberries
Cercis canadensis30’4Eastern Redbud
Cornus florida25’5-8Flowering Dogwood
Ilex spp.10’-15’5-9Hollies
Podocarpus macrophyllus50’7-10Yew Podocarpus
Prunus pensylvanica30’6-8Pin Cherry
Rhododendron maximum12’-36’4-9Rosebay Rhododendron
Thuja occidentalis10-15’2-9American Arborvitae
Tsuga spp.25’-50’3-8Hemlocks
Chokberry bush, Aronia
Chokberry bush, Aronia

Shrubs that withstand shade

Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Abelia spp.5’-10’7-9Abelias
Acanthopanax sieboldianus9’4Free-leaved Aralia
Alnus spp.9’-40’2-7Alders
Amelanchier spp.6’-25’2-7Serviceberries
Ardisia crispa2’-5’6-9Coral Ardisia
Aronia spp.2’-9’4-9Chokeberries
Aucuba japonica10’6-10Japanese Aucuba
Azara microphylla12’-18’8-10Boxleaf Azara
Berberis spp.2’-10’5-9Barberries
Brunfeldsia spp.3’10Raintree
Bladder-senna, Colutea arborescens
Bladder-senna, Colutea arborescens
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Calycanthus floridus8’5-9Carolina Allspice
Camelia japonica3’-10’7-9Common Camellia
Camelia sinensis30’9Tea Camellia
Chamaecyparis obtusa2’-15’4-8Hinoki Cypress
Chimonanthus praecox8’-12’7-9Wintersweet
Chionanthus virginicus10’4-9Fringetree
Clethra alnifolia24”-36”3-9Summersweet
Colutea arborescens10’6-8Bladder-senna
Comptonia peregrina24”-36”2-8Sweet fern
 Magellan fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica
Magellan fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Cornus spp.1.5-24’2-8Dogwoods
Corylopsis spp.10-18’5-7Winter hazels
Corylus spp.15-30’3-4Hazels
Cotoneaster salicifolius15’5-8Cotoneaster
Daphne mezereum3’4-8February Daphne
Daphne odora4’7-9Winter Daphne
Diervilla sessilifolia3’-5’4-8Southern Bush-honeysuckle
Euonymus japonicus12’6-9Evergreen Euonymus
Fatsia japonica5’-12’8-10Fatsia
Fothergilla spp.8’5-8Fothergillas
Fuchsia magellanica3’-6’6-9Magellan Fuchsia
Florida anise tree, Illicium floridanum
Florida anise tree, Illicium floridanum
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Gaultheria shallon4’6-8Salal
Gaylussacia baccata18”-3’3-7Box-huckleberry
Hamamelis spp.6’-12’3-8Witch-hazels
Hardenbergia comptoniana10’9-11Compton Coral-pea
Hydrangea macrophylla6’6-9Garden Hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia6’5-9Oak-leaf Hydrangea
Hypericum spp.1’-6’6-9St. John’s-wort
Ilex spp.9’-30’3-9Hollies
Illicium floridanum8’7-9Florida Anise Tree
Jacobina spp.2-5’10Plume-flower
Magnolia Sweetbay tree, Magnolia virginiana
Magnolia Sweetbay tree, Magnolia virginiana
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Kalmia spp.3’-10’2-8Mountain-laurels
Laurus nobilis30’8-11Sweet Bay, Laurel
Leucothoe fontanesiana3’-6’5-8Drooping Leucothoe
Ligustrum spp.6-15’3-9Privets
Lindera benzoin10’4-9Spice Bush
Lonicera spp.3’-15’2-9Honeysuckles
Lycium barbarum5’-11’6-9Chinese box thorn
Magnolia virginiana28’6-9Sweet Bay
Mahonia spp.10”-12’6-9Mahonias, Holly Grapes
Michelia figo5’-11’9-12Banana-shrub
Myrica spp.5’-9’2-6Wax Myrtle
Pieris japonica 'Forest Flame'
Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Nandina domestica3’-6’6-11Nandina
Osmanthus fragrans3’-10’7-9Sweet Osmanthus
Pachysandra terminalis10”5-8Japanese Spurge
Paxistima canbyi16”7-8Canby Pachistima
Philesia magellanica3’7-8Magellan Box-lily
Phillyrea latifolia28’7-9 
Photinia spp.10-20’4-9Photinias
Pittosporum tobira6’-10’8-10Japanese Pittosporum
Pyracantha spp.3’-15’6-9Firethorns
Jetbead, Rhodotypos scandens
Jetbead, Rhodotypos scandens
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Rhamnus spp.6’-10’7-9Buckthorns
Rhaphiolepis umbellata1’-5’7-11Yeddo-Hawthorn
Rhododendron spp.4’-20’2-9Azaleas, Rhododendorns
Rhodotypos scandens4’5-8Jetbead
Rubus odoratus8’3-7Flowering Raspberry
Ruscus aculeatus1’-3’7-9Butcher’s Broom
Sabal minor3’-6’9-12Dwarf Palmetto
Sambucus canadensis12’4-9Blueberry Elder
Sambucus racemosa10’3-7Red Elder
Sarcococca ruscifolia3’8-9Sarcococcas
Sasa palmata6’7-11Bamboo
Severinia buxifolia6’8-9Chinese Box-orange
Skimmia japonica4’-15’7-9Japanese Skimmia
Stachyurus praecox5’7-9 
Symphoricarpos spp.3-6’3-7Snowberry
Snowball viburnum, Viburnum opulus

Snowball viburnum, Viburnum opulus
Botanical NameHeightZoneCommon Name
Taxus spp.3’-20’3-7Yews
Thuja spp.3’-25’2-7Arborvitaes
Torreya spp.40’-70’7-11Torreya
Tsuga canadensis2’-10’4-8Common Hemlock vars.
Vaccinium spp.8”-5’2-7Blueberries
Viburnum spp.3’-12’2-9Viburnums
Vinca minor4”-8”4-9Periwinkle
Xanthorhiza simplicissima2’3-9Yellow-root
Zamia pumila4’9-12Coontie
Zenobia pulverulenta6’5-8Dusty Zenobia

Also of interest:
Shade Gardening

Annuals and Perennials for Shade

Annuals and Perennials for Part Shade

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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